The Bitter With the Sweet
Don't Rap It
"Out for the season--brutal words for any athlete, words that cause incredulity first, then outrage, then despair.
Tim Davenport returned to Cambridge in August as Harvard's number one quarterback after two years of playing understudy to Jim Kubacki--two years of paying his dues on the bench, of anxiously watching, cheering from the sidelines, learning, all in preparation for his senior year when he would take the field to lead the Crimson. He played just one game before chance sidelined him for yet another season--his last.
A ball player will see another guy go down with an injury and shake his head in sympathy and express sincere concern, but he just doesn't believe it can happen to him. Yes, it's a violent game and yes, it hurts sometimes, but injury never crosses his mind. Like a car accident, it only happens to other people. So when the doctor tells him he can't play, he feels cheated. His body has let him down. He asks himself, "Why me?"
Worse than the injury itself, worse than simply being sidelined, is the isolation that comes as a result of the injury. The player, who once bitched and moaned about drills and sprints, longs to suffer with the rest of the guys.
It's a bitter pill to swallow when he realizes that the team goes on business as usual, without him. He sits in the training room while everyone else heads out to practice. He no longer has to attend meals or meetings. Robbed of the security of the routine, he struggles to feel part of the team.
But everyone who plays the game knows the risks involved; everyone can look objectively at what may happen. It simply doesn't pay to dwell on the undesired possibility of injury. Once a player begins to protect himself, to play cautiously, to shy away from contact, he not only loses his effectiveness but he actually increases his chance of being injured. Instead of dishing out contact he becomes a target.
If injury is such a threat, some would ask, why play? Why risk serious injury? Why sit on the bench as Tim did for years for but a few precious minutes on the field? Why suffer, as many do, through years of practice, without playing even the few minutes that Tim did?
Perhaps the asnwer is that the routine is not a pain but a pleasure.
There is joy behind the bitching and cursing, a kind of pride that comes from enduring shared hardships. Only someone who's been through it and then must sit on the sidelines, unable to play, can fully realize this.
Injury or not, it all ends for everyone sooner or later. In a few weeks the seniors will hang up their pads and take their places on the sidelines with Tim. And without a doubt the strongest and most fond memories they will retain will not be about any exploits on the field, or about some glorious moment, but about their teammates, about the outrageous things said and done, about the bullshittting and jiving and, of course, about the glorious routine.
To the fans, Tim's career consisted of two brief appearances, but for Tim, his career goes on with his mates--in the knowledge of a shared experience.